7 questions to Tammy O’Brien – Turf Talk: 4 March 2019
WITH the Cape Premier Yearling Sale in its unique city location and glamorous setting behind us, we turn our attention to the 250 year old sales company marque that is Tattersalls Ltd. Referred to in a recent David Allan column as the Sotheby’s or Christie’s of the thoroughbred, the company occupies 44 acres of Newmarket to which buyers and specialists from all over the world flock – not only for the various sales events but also to experience or catch up with many opportunities to absorb and thrill anyone involved with thoroughbred racing and breeding.
In our “7 Questions” format, David has been in touch with Tammy O’Brien of Tattersalls – giving us a rare chance to hear from a lady of extraordinary experience.
Mrs O’Brien – mostly as Tammy Twomey, another well-known family name in Ireland – spent twenty years at the heart of surely the world’s most impressive and pre-eminent racing and breeding operation: Coolmore. In Racing Management, she was closely involved in the development and growth of that world conquering racing machine known colloquially as “Ballydoyle”.
Mrs O’Brien’s married name is not the O’Brien of the current master of Ballydoyle, but the original O’Brien of Ballydoyle, the legendary Vincent whose son Charles she married.
Now in a different phase in her life, Mrs O’Brien occupies a senior marketing position in Tattersalls and one can only imagine the strength of her contribution. She kindly agreed to be quizzed seven times:
Q: You yourself must have close connections in a great many racing countries, but to how many does Tattersalls as a company market its services and how many nationalities attend your major sales?
A: The Tattersalls marketing team travel extensively throughout the year, connecting with existing clients as well as looking to uncover potential new clients and new markets. In the month of January alone we will have had representatives travel to four different continents consolidating already established relationships and trying to generate new associations. We have buyers from approximately 50 countries come to Tattersalls each year to purchase, both to export as well as to buy and keep horses in the UK.
We also have a number of overseas representatives in different countries who keep us abreast of racing and the market in their part of the World. All this, together with our extensive overseas race sponsorships schemes which help support racing and breeding in other countries, establish long and enduring relationships with clients all over the world.
Q: How many sales are there at Tattersalls each year?
A: There are twelve sales at Tattersalls in Newmarket each year as well as eight at Fairyhouse outside Dublin in Ireland catering predominantly to the National Hunt audience. We also have six sales at Cheltenham and eight at Ascot following our purchase of Brightwells approximately three years ago. We have also recently partnered with Goresbridge and will hold Europe’s largest breeze up sale there in May.
Q: Is your work and that of your Tattersalls colleagues year round or do you operate sale by sale?
A: The full time staff at Tattersalls operate year round. For the Marketing team, what are considered the ‘quieter’ times give us a chance to travel and promote sales later in the year while for the bloodstock team, yearling inspections start reasonably early in the year and with sales from February through to December there is rarely too much downtime.
Q: Do you concentrate your efforts on market-making at the highest levels?
A: Not at all. Whilst the majority of our turnover might come from the high priced lots, it is equally important to try to find buyers at all levels of the market. When someone enters their horse for a Tattersalls sale, they do so in the knowledge that we will do what we can to ensure there is a buyer there for that horse. We are there to work for the vendor and our extensive travel to different parts of the world is to attract buyers to Tattersalls at all levels of the market.
Q: How does Tattersalls look at South Africa as a source of buyers at the moment?
A: South Africa is a continuous and valuable source of buyers for us. We historically welcomed significant numbers of South African breeders to Newmarket to source fillies and mares to export and improve the quality of the local bloodstock but we also now see that some are investing in Europe and leaving stock here to race and breed. The Kieswetter family’s Barnane Stud enjoyed a fantastic year in 2018 with Urban Fox, who won the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes, having been purchased at the December Sale in 2017. Others have successfully purchased yearlings for export to South Africa and I hope this will continue.
Q: Are there incentives that can assist South African buyers?
A: Tattersalls operate an Inward Buyer Scheme with the BHA and TBA that offers to subsidise the travel expenses of buyers to the tune of £650 providing that they have purchased a horse for 5,000 guineas or more. We are also able to organise transfers to and from airports, offer help in booking accommodation and facilitate visits to the National Horseracing Museum, local stud farms, the Jockey Club Rooms and other local attractions.
Q: Might we be able to welcome you to South Africa in the future?
A: I spent a hugely enjoyable few days in South Africa earlier this month where I was made to feel extremely welcome by the people within the industry. As you know we support a race sponsorship scheme in Kenilworth so I was delighted to be there in person to present to the winners of our races. South Africa is an important and valuable market for us and we continue to support it going forward. – tt.